The Christian Health Association of Sierra Leone (CHASL) was founded on 29th February, 1975 through institutionalized support of the World Council of Churches. CHASL’s current Health Care Facilities in total are 42 (14 Hospitals and 28 Clinics) spread across the country in 14 of the 16 administrative districts.
The current Head of CHASL is Ms Florence Bull, working with her team of staff, supported by the Executive Committee with Bro. Michael Koroma, Director of St John of God Hospital as Chairman.
In a Survey conducted by the Christian Medical Commission of the World Council of Churches done in the 70s it was discovered that 35% of health care in Sierra Leone was Church owned, yet they operated independently. There was the need for them to be under an umbrella Body, thus CHASL was established.
Despite tremendous efforts by Governments, past and present, meeting the health needs of the population has remained a big challenge. We are still short of health personnel by nearly 40% of its full complement; the country has very few Specialist doctors and some of the very vital medical equipment is not available in government hospitals.
Primary Health Care (PHC) appeared on world limelight when in 1978 the World Health Organization (WHO) collaborated with the World Council of Churches to formulate the Alma-Ata Declaration, which affirmed Primary Health Care as a vehicle to guaranteeing access to health care as a fundamental human right. It was envisaged that a majority of the health needs of communities could be met within a well- functioning primary health care system that would guarantee access to quality affordable health services- promotive, preventive and curative. Today however, there are still huge fundamental gaps in providing access to affordable quality health services to needy populations.
There is a great need for churches and government to work together in the health sector. Over the years CHASL Health Facilities have provided some of the best health care services. In the area of access to health care, CHASL’s Facilities are found in the length and breadth of the country in some of the most remote and hard- to- reach areas. The ones that quickly come to mind are Kamakwie, Serabu and Mattru hospitals.
At the district levels CHASL Facility staff are in touch with the Government District Health Medical Teams and lobby for free health Care drugs, IPCs and cost recovery drugs.
In 2017 CHASL secured funding from Bread for the World for the project: “Strengthening CHASL’s Health Facilities, systems and structures”. This project supported health facilities according to findings of a Needs assessment, with the following: Lap top Computers; standard delivery Beds; refurbishing of delivery rooms and other dilapidated structures; water supply; electricity supply mainly through solar; incinerators; supply of needed drugs. The Health coordinator and team have also been lobbying with the Government for the signing of MOUs to formalize cooperation.
The aforementioned project for the above support ended in 2020 and the evaluation done has very positive findings as to the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency and impact realized. Staff at the Facilities is highly motivated by the immense support CHASL has rendered. It has improved their work and patient uptake and commendation.
Especially in the past two years, CHASL has forged strong partnership ties with the Ministry of Health so much so that now many of her facilities are reporting to the DHMTs at District level. Currently 51% of CHASL facilities have the MOH reporting tools and report to the DHMT. 42% receive support from Government – drugs and staff and 40% have a signed MOU with the Government. This is a positive development and it is hoped that government will continue to support CHASL to close the many health gaps.
Given that Faith-based health services are most times barely cost-recovery, sustainability is difficult and therefore viable partnerships should be established. Faith-Based health facilities have played a great role in the country’s Health sector. One can cite the establishment of the Nursing Schools at Serabu, Segbwema and then Mattru as very laudable strides by CHASL in addition to the provision of rehabilitation programs and Research.
CHASL held a National Consultative Conference on 28th January, 2020 at the Hill Valley Hotel. Purpose of the Conference was to provide the platform to showcase the contribution of CHASL as a partner complementing government efforts in the health sector, its relevance, create opportunities for partnerships and galvanize support, share experiences and lessons learnt from sister CHAs around Africa and to contribute to the global agenda of UHC through PHC. Additionally the event created an excellent opportunity for networking and establishing a sustainable network of partners and stakeholders.
A total of 87 attended including the then minister of Health, Prof Alpha T. Wurie as Guest of Honour, and 6 other Ministry Officials and the Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Health. The theme was: Reigniting Primary Health Care: the Role of CHASL.
The Conference provided the platform to showcase the contribution of CHASL as a partner complementing government efforts in the health sector, its relevance, create opportunities for partnerships and galvanize support, share experiences and lessons learnt from sister CHAs around Africa and to contribute to the global agenda of UHC through PHC.
There are several challenges that CHASL facilities are facing including: Dwindling Missionary support leading to constraints in running most facilities: Inadequate and irregular subsidy from the Government ( Currently 2 receive subsidy):inadequate human resource for health in member facilities and secretariat staff: Less attention to faith- Based Health institutions from donor Agencies: high staff turnover especially in district Headquarter towns especially those who get PIN Codes from the Ministry of Health.
Well a very important development of the CHASL- Government partnership is the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in which government encourages CHASL to continue her work and that government commits itself to do the following: allocation of PIN coded staff to CHASL according to quota; Where possible also send doctors and other professionals to support; involve CHASL in all its training activities; make available data recording HMIS Tools; Access to HMIS data; Drugs and equipment to those doing the Free Health Care; Access to the National Medical supplies Agency for Drug procurement; Tax Clearance and Duty Waivers; Appoint representation on CHASL District Level Boards for regular appraisal; Attend CHASL Events; NGOs partnering with Government to support CHASL activities.
With this very positive outlook of the MOU, one trusts that the two heads to the signing, Ms Florence Bull of CHASL and Dr Austin Demby will work relentlessly to meet the spirit of the MOU and give our citizenry a new lease of healthy and dignified life.